I Love Children campaign is ‘scaremongering’

From ‘Fertility ads give birth to controversy’, 5 Feb 2016, article by Tan Weizhen, ST

A voluntary welfare group advocating early parenthood has defended an advertising campaign featuring four controversial cartoons.

The ads – which show sperm and eggs in situations such as rowing together in a boat or playing darts – were placed in train stations by I Love Children (ILC) this week, with slogans like “Even the best marksman could miss the target” and “Women are born with a finite number of eggs”.

The group hopes they will encourage people to conceive earlier while they are more fertile, but they have been criticised by some members of the public for being distasteful and insensitive.

Women’s rights group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has called the campaign “scaremongering“, saying it might have an emotional impact on women who might be infertile or who have had miscarriages.

i-love-children-ad-10-data

It’s not just married folks without children who’ll be irked by the naggy tone of the ads. Even those with curious kids who’ve seen the ad will have trouble explaining to them what a sperm is and where it comes from, before they start asking you whether those two happy creatures are new Pokemons.

Like all evangelical fertility campaigns, I Love Children only presents a one-sided rosy picture of childbearing, and with it being launched in perfect timing with CNY, it’ll only add more fuel to the fire for those having to face the traditional interrogation by pesky relatives during visiting. This sudden urgency to bump up baby stats is a far cry from the ‘anti-natalist’ movement in the 70’s, where you’re advised to ‘take your time’ before settling down. If you ‘take your time’ these days, you’ll get parents giving you dirty looks assuming you’re a ‘children-hater’. You can ‘take your time’ to choose the right primary school, the right career, the right house, but when it comes to babies, it’s ‘WTF are you waiting for already!’

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.29.00 AM

From ‘Fertility and the Family:An overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore’ Theresa Wong, Branda S.A Yeoh

To be fair, it’s hard to come up with a fertility campaign with the right nuance. Some mild threatening is needed for it to be effective. Like ‘Children – Life would be empty without them’. This would make sense in the 90’s. Today, if you don’t have children of your own, there’s always Netflix and line dancing to fill the gaping void in your otherwise lonely, miserable existence.

In 2013, some NTU students came up with a ‘Singaporean Fairytale’, which featured ‘negative stereotypes’ in the form of a Golden Goose laying eggs, with the terrifying warning that your ‘egg making device may become rusty and old’. Again, the usual scare tactics of that timebomb ticking away in your oven. Time to put a bun in it!

In 2012, Mentos created ‘National Night’, urging you to ‘perform your civic duty’, and tapping your partner’s body like an ‘EZ-link card’. Cringeworthy, but for different reasons.

ILC, you don’t need to tell me what I already know. Jubilee Babies, SG50 baby bonuses, enhanced parental benefits. We already have agents out there, intentionally or unintentionally, promoting procreation for free ALL THE TIME. Not just the Government, parents and kaypoh aunties, but every father mother son who’s ever posted a montage of their bundle of flippin’ joy on Facebook. I’m reminded of putting my sperm to good use everytime I send a Whatsapp message to a friend with his baby as his icon.  If I see a baby dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi, I get the urge to impregnate the nearest womb I see. When I see a mini-series about families with 8 kids it gives me a newfound passion for harem-making.

So there’s no need for pro-lifers to hire graphic designers to draw cartoon sperm and ova rowing a boat, doing pole vaults or doing the Lambada to give us the warm, tingly  ‘AWWWWW..SO CUTE..LET’S HAVE SEX NOW’ moment. In fact, these ads do the exact opposite. Like a badgering aunty telling you so-and-so just had a fourth kid and still got that promotion at work. It saps the romance right out of any form of sexual intercourse, oral, vaginal or otherwise. Unless you people are telling me ‘Screw romance and do it like they do on the Discovery Channel!’

In short, money wasted, which could have been put to better use helping people struggling with kids so badly they resort to giving them up for adoption, accidental teenage mums thinking of throwing their neonates down the rubbish chute, or going into some fund for assisted reproduction for desperate couples. If you Love Children so much, help children that are living NOW, not play bedroom Peeping Tom, matchmaker, and midwife.

This is all we need.

Kiasu parents compiling top PSLE scores online

 

From ‘Parents compile online lists of PSLE top scores’, 30 Nov 2015, article by Calvin Yang, ST

A move to stop revealing the names and scores of top performers at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to reduce the emphasis on academic results has not stopped parents from compiling their own lists of top scores.

When primary schools withheld the scores of their high-fliers after the PSLE results were released last Wednesday, some parents went online to assemble unofficial lists of aggregate scores attained by the supposed top pupils in their children’s schools.

They told The Straits Times that these lists give them some indication of whether their children have a shot at getting into “brand name” secondary schools here.

Engineer Daniel Yeo, 44, whose son got his results last week, said: “It is about managing expectations. At the end of the day, we don’t want our child to be disappointed if he can’t get into a particular school.

‘At the end of the day’, when results are out, no parent for all practical purposes, cares if MOE claims that the reason why top and bottom PSLE scores are not disclosed is to ‘align practices with the emphasis on holistic development and all round excellence’. 

Without official announcements from MOE, we now have instead rumour, speculation and questionable ‘crowdsourcing’ on education forums like Kiasu Parents. Now people don’t just make assumptions of what the ‘best’ schools are, but which among these unofficial lists are the ‘worst’. When it comes to the PSLE, there’s no limit to how creative our parents can get, even though ‘creativity’ is not something you’d associate most Singaporean kids with.

As a consolation to those who did not fare so well, the media gets famous people to confess their ‘terrible’ PSLE results to public. Like ex-gangster turned lawyer Josephus Tan’s middling 183 for example. Sometimes happy successful people are where they are now not despite their atrocious PSLE score, but BECAUSE of it. Maybe to get a more ‘holistic’ explanation of why the rest of your life is not determined by a 3-digit number, they should interview not just winners at life but disgraced failures too, people who are obviously very smart and can ace the PSLE with one eye closed, but end up as storybook villains, like folks from a megachurch going to prison for corruption. So you can tell your kid that spending your education in a ‘middle-class’ school doesn’t mean you won’t descend into a life of sin and debauchery.   In any case, you’re still giving undue attention to The Score, which is exactly what MOE does not want.

This isn’t the first time people obsessed with PSLE ranking bypassed the MOE’s gag order. You can also gauge how good a secondary school is by ranking their cut-off scores. Despite not divulging top scorers, schools continue to honour kids who score ‘above 250’, which already tells you that anything less than 250 is mediocre. And then there are braggy-ass parents who insist on telling the world on Facebook how well their children did, which eventually will draw other FB parents into a heated T-score comparison war. My kid went up on stage but yours didn’t. HAHAHA.

Not many parents are willing to groom their children into artists like the Holycrap family. The urge to keep up with the Jones’s is part and parcel of not just the Singaporean but human psyche, so for the rest of us, with perfectly average children with no special talent to exploit, the PSLE is the proverbial trial by fire that allows parents and their kids to express and exaggerate that survival instinct, more so in a potboiler society where high office candidacy is still restricted to degree holders, and children have nothing much to live for other than homework and CCAs.

It’s dog eat dog, winner takes all, and the T-score is the golden snitch, the battle scar, the trophy on the shelf. I don’t care if that guy on stage in the top 1% is a douchebag, his score is an aspiration. And that’s what the PSLE, and the MOE’s futile diversions from it, is doing to us all. We celebrate a top score as if the kid has just won in life, while other kids with non-academic accomplishments like musical or sporting talent are given a brief nod, not a standing ovation. We’re engrossed in the numbers game to the point that we even make PSLE jokes of the PSI when it hits the 290s.

One Jurong West Secondary School principal exposed the hypocrisy behind the dictum ‘every school is a good school‘ by asking how many of our elite actually put their children in neighbourhood schools. Every school will want to distinguish themselves from the rest. Every school has its own tradition of excellence, however you want to define it, in academia or otherwise. That’s all part of the ‘branding’. Even if I say to hell with the PSLE and decide to push my child towards Wushu mastery, I would have to choose carefully. I’d go for one with a track record of winning competitions, just like how a kiasu parent who wants his child to become a rocket scientist would track PSLE scores in addition to how their science team fares in Robot Olympiads.

If the MOE wants every school to be as ‘good’ as the other, then it’ll have to do much more than playing hide and seek with PSLE scores, which desperate parents have the means to sniff out anyway.  It has to come down hard on schools known for their ‘exclusivity’ to a certain class of Singaporeans. It has to do away with this mindset that top dollar gives you top education. It has to review the entire GEP scheme. The top brass should have no shame telling people that their kid is working part time at McDonalds’ to pay for an education in arts or drama. We’d have to find a cure for this tuition epidemic. We’ll need to stop rich people from moving house just to get a better chance at securing the school ‘of their choice’. If we continue to jail parents for lying about their addresses, then the ministry has failed in its mission.

Yet at the same time, we shouldn’t succumb to the ‘Zuckerberg’ myth that results are not important, that you could drop out of school and become a internet multibillionaire. And we shouldn’t bring everyone down to the common denominator like some socialist utopian state. Ultimately, we don’t want to hear if this school is as ‘good’ as that school. What we want is this – It doesn’t matter which school you go to or how well you did. It’s what you made of your education, and who you are that’s most important.

NSP candidate joking about Tin Peiling’s weakness as mother

From ‘Being a mum is not a weakness: Tin Pei Ling’, 4 Sept 2015, article in CNA

Her new status as a mum is not a weakness, and neither is her youth, the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Tin Pei Ling said on Friday (Sep 4). Ms Tin, the PAP’s candidate for the MacPherson single-seat ward, had written a Facebook post in response to a TODAY report in which National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) Cheo Chai Chen was quoted as saying that being a mother was Ms Tin’s weakness.

Mr Cheo, who spoke in Mandarin, had said: “If voters choose her, she might focus more on her child than on her voters. This is her weakness.

Disagreeing, Ms Tin said she is committed to MacPherson, and that she returned to work two weeks after she gave birth because she wanted to continue to serve. “I am confident that even as a mum I can continue to focus on my work in MacPherson,” she said.

…Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr Cheo said his comments were meant as a joke. “I just said: ‘Tin Pei Ling now has a son, so she will focus on the child. Then she will split her attention to the residents’,” he said. “It was not my intention (to criticise her), it was a joke.”

Ms ‘Kate Spade’ herself should be used to getting picked on, none more so than by her former Marine Parade GRC team mate, ESM Goh Chok Tong himself, who posted on Facebook that Tin had been ‘traumatised’ by election pressure back in 2011, and was seeing trauma specialist Dr Fatimah Lateef. He clarified that it was ‘tongue in cheek’. Goh recently boasted that the PAP could be its own ‘self-check’ (which spawned Pritam Singh’s ‘Ownself check Ownself’). Not sure if his tongue was in his cheek then. At least the PAP needs someone to check on the appropriateness of their ‘jokes’ perhaps.

When Cheo passed what has been deemed to be a discriminatory remark about mothers, he clearly forgot about fellow NSP candidate Kevyrn Lim, who revealed to the media a few days back that she was a single mum. If Tin’s baby were a liability to her political aspirations, then what of Kevyrn? The latter already had to endure online catcalls and nasty comparisons to a streetwalker. NSP hastily backpedalled after the incident, but with the Macpherson card already a case of three’s a crowd, it looks like Cheo inadvertently just made it easier for Tin to secure the SMC.

Cheo’s not the first to be a potential nominee for AWARE’s Alamak award. In 2001, then Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang responded to Dr Lily Neo’s call in Parliament to use Medisave to cover breast screening by saying: ‘Save on one hairdo and use the money for health screening’. Tampines and 3-time contestant Desmond Choo raised the analogy that voting for the PAP was like choosing a housewife who’s really good in the kitchen. Some even call out the Cabinet for being predominantly male. While other Asian countries are seeing women take top leadership posts, we still have some in our midst indulging in old fashioned stereotypes, that women are meant to stay at home to look after their kids, look good for their husbands, cook your meals, or, in the case of the AHPETC saga, check the utility bills.

Yet, nobody questions men if they would be able to juggle their hectic day jobs with politicking, looking at the portfolio of some of our more distinguished MPs, be they directors of law firms, mega corporations or prominent lecturer-surgeons. An attractive female candidate like Nicole Seah is labelled ‘a pretty face‘, but no one doubts the abilities of PAP’s undisputed ‘selfie king’.  Neither did anyone in the new PAP Sembawang GRC team retort when they were referred to as a ‘boyband’. If you had an all-women team fielded instead and you decide to nickname them the Pussycat Dolls, you won’t be able to walk in the streets without someone sticking a stiletto heel up your groin.

Parents sending kids for brain-training

From ‘Parents jump on brain-training wagon in bid to boost concentration and memory in children’, 9 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng, ST

Forget maths tuition, swimming lessons or piano classes. Parents are now sending their children for brain training, hoping to improve their concentration and memory skills.

…Some opt for these classes – which can cost more than $100 per session – as they think tuition may not be as effective. Aiming to train motor and processing skills, for instance, the centres use methods such as listening exercises and puzzles, as well as physical activities like catching balls.

…Ms Cheryl Chia, founder of BrainFit Studio, said getting distracted is a common problem. To combat this, children learn to focus and follow instructions. BrainFit has three branches here, two of which were set up in the last five years. Each branch takes in 200 pupils every year.

To cater to the growing interest, it started programmes in the last two years for pre-schoolers and toddlers as young as six months old. These programmes had about 50 and 20 children respectively last year.

At Happy Train, children go through “right-brain training” to speed up information processing skills. The centre has seen more than 400 children sign up, twice as many as seven years ago. Children younger than two years old make up half of its pupils today, compared with 30 to 40 per cent in 2008.

Another centre, People Impact, uses brain training techniques among its methods to boost intellect and social skills. It had over 100 children last year, a 45 per cent jump from the year before.

‘Brain training’ is preparatory class for what would eventually become tuition, and we already have enrichment classes for toddlers. Before you know it, with advancements in brain-fitness ‘neuroscience’, we’ll be training brains of foetuses while they’re still in their amniotic sacs. Maybe pregnant mummies will have to gyrate their bodies in a certain way to the nourishing sounds of Mozart so that their unborn child will exercise the necessary ‘mental muscles’ to prepare them when they’re discharged out of a womb into a chaotic world. You could call this Pre-brain training, priming your child’s rudimentary nervous system with tools based on the latest ‘neuroscientific principles’ when there’s nothing bigger than a budding hypothalamus in that gooey pre-head of his, so that he can develop an ‘intellect’ before he can even climb and descend a playground slide.

Anyone familiar with dystopic sci-fi should be able to see the creepiness of all this. An analogy would be an elite group of human beings with superior intellect and powers plugging newborns into a vat filled with neurochemicals and hormones, their eyes glued to a series of flashing cue cards and images from the history of mankind, subject to constant physical aquatic exercise, so that by the age of 3 years they emerge from their cell ready to devour Shakespeare, form theories of the universe, play tennis blindfolded and attend  a cocktail party without experiencing any social awkwardness at all.

Brainfit Studio is unabashed in giving its programmes titles like Baby Da Vinci, Baby Newton and Baby Einstein, with the notable absence of Baby Michael Jordan, Baby Britney Spears or Baby Lee Kuan Yew. It’s practically giving you a choice to pick the kind of genius and fine physical specimen you want your kid to grow into. Happy Train claims to imbue the powers of PERFECT PITCH and ALPHA-WAVE RELAXATION into their students, which are exactly the kind of properties you would want a docile singing robot to have. Heguru Education wants to take you out of the ‘Friendzone’ and into the INCREDIBLE GENIUS ZONE. And this is how People Impact describes one of their ‘creative sequencing’ courses:

The learning objective for this module is to enhance each student’s ability to recognise, encode, and generate sequences of significant symbols, objects and events, in ways which enhance memory whilst also reducing their cognitive workload. Students will learn to identify and make use of the differences between arbitrary and ‘naturally’ ordered sequences, whilst developing the means to construct time- and energy-efficient hierarchically organised sequence embedding when set-sizes become too large to handle ‘in-the-head’ when relying upon short-term memory alone.

Which sounds like something a theoretical physicist needs to decipher gravitational waves, not kids who’re barely old enough to tell the time. Playing with wooden blocks is not good enough, these guys want you to break codes that would stump Alan Turing. With all this emphasis on ‘right-brain training’, your kid may grow up with a skull that looks exactly like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Einstein never needed a gym instructor for the mind nor an intellect on steroids. Kids these days.

As a parent you could, of course, forget about the prenatal ratrace and only start preparing your kid by buying past years’ PSLE assessment books when they’re Primary 5. You could bring them to the beach instead of a ‘learning lab’, build sandcastles, play catch, hide and seek, climb a tree, challenge to tic-tac-toe in the sand, catch a crab or skip stones.  Or, if you want your kid to grow up into Megamind, you could splurge on a brain-training session so that someone else can play damn ball with him, and not waste time with all this dirt and adventure bullshit.

There’s already a tried and tested, but more importantly, FREE, method available to any parent who wants to see their offspring develop into a human being full of potential with his own personality, not a polished automaton with a bootcamp brain with chill alpha-waves. It’s called PLAY.

Couple having sex in RWS jacuzzi in front of children

From ‘Couple causes stir in Resorts World Sentosa jacuzzi’, 14 Dec 2014, article by Lim Yi Han, Sunday Times

A couple allegedly stripped and had sex in a jacuzzi at Resorts World Sentosa’s Beach Villas last Friday afternoon, in full view of horrified guests. While the jacuzzi was meant only for the couple’s villa, it sat within a larger pool being enjoyed by other guests.

One guest, who wanted to be known only as Madam Lee, told The Sunday Times that she was alerted to the incident when her two children and their two cousins – aged between five and 11 years – noticed that the woman was not wearing anything from waist down. The children were swimming in the pool at the time.

The 41-year-old housewife, who was there with other family members after one of them paid about $1,000 a night for their villa, said she alerted the concierge immediately, and told the children not to look.

“But the couple started having sex in the jacuzzi. It was very obvious, and my mother shouted at them. I quickly ran in to get my phone and snap pictures, and they stopped only when they saw me doing that,” said Madam Lee.

“I would have closed one eye if the kids were not there, but I’m surprised the couple did it even though they were aware there were children around.”

…Those guilty of public nudity can be charged under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, and face up to three months in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000. For committing an obscene act in public, the maximum punishment is three months in jail and a fine.

Embarrassed, curious, shocked, amused, angry perhaps, but the ST chose to describe onlookers as ‘HORRIFIED’. Madam Lee herself admitted that she would have let the horny couple go at it if there were no kids around, though I doubt that would stop voyeurs like her from taking photos either. If there’s anything useful about this complaint it’s that people, not just young innocent children, should avoid private jacuzzis altogether. You never know what remnants of bodily fluids lurk in that bubbling cauldron of sex.

Telling your kids ‘not to look’ is just about the worst parenting advice ever. Children will stumble onto sex inevitably, whether it’s from the Internet, a HDB staircase, void deck, on public transport, even erotic bus ads. A mother determined to shelter her children’s eyes from any activity hinting at public fornication would have to equip them with smart visors 24/7, a gadget that turns your field of vision into a mosaic fog once activated by Mommy’s stern voice, or if the device detects two human bodies connected in a pattern consistent with ‘fondling’.

Better still, hook your 11 year old up with chastity underwear with erection sensors, because once you stop him from staring at people having live sex, his adolescent mind will automatically conjure up fantasy scenarios beyond a wet romp in a hot jacuzzi. Once an arousal is detected, a signal will be transmitted to an app in Mommy’s phone with the notification: ‘Level 5 erection detected’, after which the program will share tips on how to control your kid’s bodily urges, like throwing him into a tub of ice or making him kneel before an altar and confess to some angry deity.

Children should be protected from domestic violence, misogynistic rap songs, bad grammar on public signs and people not clearing trays in hawker centres. An encounter with public sex is an opportunity for realistic, fact-based parenting, not puritanical liturgy; To teach children that people engage in exhibitionist sex because they’ve run out of ideas in the bedroom, that excessive time spent in a jacuzzi is bad for your sperm (after which you can educate him about what sperm is), and that if you ever think of hanky-pankying with your classmate in the void deck, the penalty will be some uptight housewife whipping out her phone (which they only ever use to play Candy Crush), uploading your pic on Stomp, and exposing the precocious, disgraceful pervert that you have become, your life ruined forever.

Parents doing grassroots work for Primary 1 priority

From ‘Stricter Primary 1 priority rules for grassroots workers’, 12 June 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

PARENTS who become grassroots volunteers in the hope of getting priority for their children in the Primary 1 registration exercise will have to serve twice as long as before. They will have to do at least two years of grassroots work, not one, to qualify for the benefit. They will also be restricted to schools in the constituency where they live. Up to now, grassroots leaders could get priority for their children in schools near their homes as well as in the constituencies where they volunteered.

…The scheme qualifies active grassroots volunteers for Phase 2B of the Primary 1 registration exercise, which also includes parents who are school volunteers or have church or clan associations. Earlier phases of the registration are for siblings of current pupils or children of past pupils. About 400 children enrol in primary schools under the active community leaders scheme each year, less than 1 per cent of the Primary 1 cohort, according to a parliamentary reply by the Education Ministry last year.

But long-time grassroots leaders say it is not uncommon to see a surge in the number of people who apply to be community leaders a year before their child is due to register for Primary 1. Lawyer Kenneth Au-Yong, a member of the Ulu Pandan citizens’ consultative committee who is in his 50s, said: “When you have a popular school within the constituency, volunteers will come to you. You don’t have to look for them.” The Ulu Pandan division under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC has four popular primary schools: Henry Park Primary, Nanyang Primary, Methodist Girls’ School and Raffles Girls’ Primary School.

Mr Au-Yong said he has seen parents dropping out of activities and grassroots meetings once their children start school.

“We should not allow the system to be abused like this’.

When grassroots leader and RC chairman Lawrence Chong was caught fighting for free textbooks and shouting at teenage volunteers in 1995 like an Ugly Singaporean, he defended his right to freebies by saying that ‘grassroots leaders should be given priority’ to the books. In an interview, he said that his breed was ‘hard to come by’ and it would be a slight incentive to people willing to step up to do grassroots duty. He eventually resigned under pressure, but probably still lives in a 4 room flat plus private property till this day.

The benefits of RC affiliations extend down to kindergarten registration as well. Already in 1992, you’d stand a higher chance of scoring a place in your neighbourhood PCF if you’re a PAP grassroots leader living in the ward. Housing is another perk of the job. From 1990-1994, a total of 745 grassroots leaders were given priority allocation for HDB flats. And once you’ve earned the flat, you also get free parking between 7 am and 11pm at HDB carparks within your constituency. Not forgetting the occasional National Day Award. You also stand a higher chance of taking a selfie with PM Lee than the man on the street.

The nature of school and housing incentives for grassroots leaders tends to draw gut-level ire from ordinary folk because of the relative scarcity of these ‘privileges’. If grassroots leaders were given tax breaks, NTUC discounts or free daily entry into the Istana, few would complain. It’s the queue-jumping that gets people crying foul. Aren’t these people supposed to have a flaming ‘passion for servant leadership’? ‘Servants’ don’t go around asking for free kopi, or demand to be first in line for preschool registration, do they? Shouldn’t they be painting banners or holding car doors open for MPs or something? If parents quit their jobs to commit to volunteering full-time in schools for priority placing, we call them kiasu. If a grassroots leader does it, we feel cheated and accuse the PA of breeding a class of selfish bourgeois lackeys who’re in it only to get their kids into branded schools.

Most grassroots workers, PAP or otherwise, serve out of pure goodwill and generally like being around neighbours, have a fetish for organising events, or love meeting new people without personal ambitions of getting ahead in life like the typical kiasu Singaporean. They’re usually not PAP ‘runners’, bodyguards or elite cronies throwing their weight around. But extension of grassroots service alone isn’t going to filter out those with ulterior motives. What’s needed is a more robust screening process and a penalty for those seeking to abuse the system for personal gain, like the public shaming of freeloading black sheep like book-grabbing Lawrence Chong. After all, you may get thrown into jail for lying about where you live when applying for priority placing. Putting on an elaborate act for the sake of tangible benefits for a year or two is just prolonged, inconspicuous lying.

Perhaps the grass is greener as a RC volunteer, only because of all the shit that’s fed into it.

Parents hiring private eyes to spy on children overseas

From ‘More parents hiring private eyes to check on their kids’, 14 Oct 2013, article by Jalelah Abu Baker, ST

A GROWING number of parents are sending private investigators to check whether their children have gone astray, sometimes even overseas. Eight out of 10 private eye agencies contacted by The Straits Times said they have seen a rise in such cases.

Mr David Ng, 37, director of private investigation firm DP Quest, said his company has seen a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in such requests. “Parents get worried when they see changes in their children’s behaviour – for example, if they get a tattoo, or start staying out late,” he said, explaining the reasons his clients usually cite. The children are usually in their teens, in secondary school or polytechnic.

…For some parents, there is even more reason to track their children when they are studying overseas. Said Mr S.M. Jegan, 61, from private investigation firm Kokusai: “Parents send us overseas as they want to see how their children are spending their money, and whether they are in relationships.” Sometimes, parents get worried when their children become uncontactable or do not return to Singapore as planned.

Sending private investigators to countries like the United States and Britain is far more expensive – it can cost about $20,000 for five days of tracking.

Our boy just said YOLO to that girl on the phone. Is that code for SEX?

Why send a child overseas to study in the first place if you need to spend tens of thousands just to make sure he’s not having orgies and smoking pot in his hostel? Getting private detectives to spy on kids is at least a decade-old practice. In 2004, an agency called Covert Acquisition was hired to plant bugs on kids’ computers to track their activity in chatrooms. 5 years later, parents are hiring PIs to spy on their kids’ sex lives. Today, you can secretly download covert apps like Handphone Spy to read your children’s Whatsapp or Line messages, which seems like a last resort when your kid refuses to be your Facebook friend.  Even our government is keenly tracking Facebook users as we speak. The catch with apps like Handphone Spy is that physical access is required for installation, which means a parent needs to snoop and deceive in order to get their hands on their kid’s phone. The solution to busybodies tampering with your phone, of course, is to bring it EVERYWHERE you go. But then again, that’s already happening. Not just kids, but adults are all Candy Crushing while pooping.

Everything a PI does to intrude into your personal life seems to be within legal boundaries. According to the Kokusai FAQs, however, it is ‘illegal’ to ‘use software to spy SMSes or track the movement of a person’, but yet you can purchase mobile phone tracking apps or buy spy gizmos to tap into computer activity freely from Sim Lim Square. Apparently there are technically no ‘privacy laws’ in Singapore to speak of, and though companies like Handphone Spy advise against stalking suspicious spouses or ex-girlfriends because it’s deemed ‘an intrusion of privacy’, it seems perfectly OK to track your kid from the moment you pack his school lunch bag till he starts logging into the Internet after he comes home, because you’re ‘exercising your rights’ as a concerned parent. Even if it means drilling a tiny pinhole in your kid’s room to peep if he’s masturbating to porn instead of studying for the PSLE. Handphone Spy even endorses bosses rigging their employees’ phones because it ’empowers YOU to get the answers you want and deserve to have’. The perfect tool for the paranoid, the insecure, and the general dirty bastard.

Despite the technology available, there’s still a surging demand for professional stealth work by parents afraid of infringing privacy laws or who lack the time or IT savvy to DIY their own investigations. If I were a kid again I would rather my parents take the day off to track me instead of paying a hired gun to do the dirty job. Even if they fail miserably in their attempt to catch me in the act of having a life after school, I would appreciate their efforts for it, though I’d probably hate them for the rest of puberty. They’re just parents being parents, and before the Internet or cellphones they did stuff like search under your bed for secret diaries and girly mags. But when they need to pay a third party to nab me for trivial things, I’m likely to hate them for much longer for making me feel like a cheating mistress or an undercover loan shark runner. Especially when I’m doing NOTHING wrong.

Instead of sending PIs on an overseas espionage mission codenamed ‘Hostel Gangbang’, how about springing surprise ‘visits’ as a cover for spying? Or better still save the spy fees and instead send gifts, handwritten letters or up your cash allowance to make them feel guilty for drinking beer or smoking for the first time. And kids aren’t stupid either; the moment they suspect they’re being spied on, they’ll start installing anti-spyware-spyware, reading up websites on ‘signs that you’re being followed’ or better still, hire their own PIs to snitch out their parents’ PIs ala Spy vs Spy. Since most PIs are also ex-cops, you may also try dropping some Kripsy Kreme doughnuts here and there to throw your follower off the scent. I wonder if security companies offer counter-spy services at a discount rate under the table as well. Seems like a lucrative, perfectly legit business opportunity to me.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 378 other followers